Safety is getting pretty dangerous.
In particular, the driver “assists” (as they’re styled) being added as part of the standard equipment suite in almost all new cars. These are really driver-pre-emption technologies which countersteer – and apply the brakes – when the computer decides that these interventions are necessary.
Leaving aside the nannying issue, there is a safety issue with all this “assistance” – which is sometimes provided when it’s not wanted much less needed.
I’ve experienced this myself, test-driving new cars. I was driving one of these – a new Prius, equipped with Automated Emergency Braking – when it applied the brakes – full force – for no apparent reason. I almost had dashboard for lunch. There was no deer in the road. The car ahead of me had not braked – let alone stopped. But the Prius did. Completely. In the middle of a road that was – thankfully – not busy at the time.
Had it been busy, I might have been ended – as slamming on the brakes and stopping in the middle of the road can be unhealthy if there’s a semi behind you.
Humans watching the road anticipate the need to slow/stop. They cover the brake; are ready to brake.
Boom – crash.
These systems can’t be overridden by the driver once automatically activated. The computer also cuts the throttle as it applies the brakes, so frantic slamming of the accelerator pedal to the floor will do absolutely nothing until the computer decides that “assistance” is no longer needed.
You’ve lost control over “your” car – put in air quotes to emphasize the absurdity. Like “your” house that’s paid off but which you’re still obliged to pay taxes on, forever, in order to be allowed to continue living there.
And it’s not just me that’s experienced this.
843 people have lodged formal complaints with the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about their vehicles braking suddenly for no apparent reason. There have been at least 14 crashes and several reported injuries. More than half a million Nissan vehicles are the focus of the just-opened investigation into the matter – but it’s potentially millions of vehicles.
And not just Nissans.
NHTSA is looking into Nissan Rogues made between 2017 and 2018. But as I experienced – and not just the once – other makes and models of cars also automatically brake when there’s no reason for them to do so.
This is styled Lane Keep Assist (or Steering Assist) and like Automated Emergency Braking (also styled Collision Avoidance) it is becoming very hard not to find in any new car, regardless of make or model.
You feel the wheel pull – even jerk – the car to the left or the right, depending on the whim of the computer that controls electric motors attached to the steering system, which apply steering force in the direction you don’t want to go.
It is very unsettling. Literally.
The most common scenario is for the “assist” to countersteer during an evasive maneuver – such as passing a slow-moving vehicle that turned into your path. Or to avoid a pothole in your path. If you didn’t signal prior to the maneuver, the computer registers the maneuver as “lane departure” that requires its “assistance.”
This is more than just peremptory. It is dangerous. The driver may not expect the unwanted “assistance” and jerk the wheel in the opposite direction – overcorrecting the car off the road – or into the path of oncoming traffic.
Even if control is maintained, the car has been unsettled – and as any professionally trained driver knows, smoothness is safety.
As opposed to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.
And the technology behind it all is general – something not reported in coverage of the burgeoning Nissan debacle.
It is probable that many of the components used in the abruptly braking Rogues under investigation are sourced from a single common supplier. Like Takata – the supplier of killer air bags – which supplied them not just to Honda but to numerous other car manufacturers as well.
Millions of cars were (and still are) “affected” – in the argot of NHTSA, which was responsible for mandating them in the first place.
And here we go again.
What many people outside the car business don’t know is that many of the components that go into a car are not made by the company whose badge is on the fender. They are sourced from a supplier who may sell the same item – with perhaps a different stamping – to several other car companies.
But the problem may be worse than that. It may prove to be the case that the systems are working as designed.
I can vouch for the sudden/unwanted and unnecessary application of braking force in several different makes and models of cars whose “assist” programming fretted roadside berms – especially in the curves – which the programming regards as an object in the car’s path.
The driver – having consciousness and cognition and the capacity to know rather than mindlessly react – is aware that it’s just a berm – and that he isn’t driving headlong into it. And therefore no ned to slam on the brakes and cut the throttle.
But the system disagrees – and brakes.
This also happens when the system decides your right-left passing maneuver to get around a slow-poke was “too close” . . . and applies the brakes (and cuts the throttle) while in the midst of your maneuver.
It makes one’s teeth ache.
There are several common denominators here – including the insufferable effrontery of the we-know-best crowd that is force-feeding this technology to us, just as they force-fed killer air bags to us.
Also the irony of justifying it all on the basis of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety – despite objective evidence and common sense to the contrary.
One thing’s for sure – as people find out about these “features” – and how unavoidable they’re becoming in new cars – it is likely more and more people are going to say No Thanks to new cars.
Me among them.
. . .
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